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  1. #1
    Allen165 is offline Key Member
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    definite article

    Would you write "at a computer" or "at the computer"? The latter sounds better to me.

    In today’s information society where people spend much of their time at a/the computer, physical activity is an increasingly important means of keeping fit.

    Thanks.

  2. #2
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    Re: definite article

    As with all questions of definite vs. indefinite article usage, there are slight nuances, depending on the sentence, in which one might be preferred to the other. Let's look at some examples.

    - Caroline is typing her report on the computer.
    - David sits in front of a computer at work all day, so he likes to get outside in the evenings.

    In these two examples, it is implied that there is a specific computer (first example) and not (second example). However, both sentences could be grammatically correct with either article.

    In your example, I think it would simply work better to say "in front of a/the computer", and neither article sounds particularly better to me. If you do a Google news search for "at a computer" and "at the computer", you'll see that the verbs preceding the prepositional phrase are often "look" or "stare".

  3. #3
    Allen165 is offline Key Member
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    Re: definite article

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Spivey View Post
    As with all questions of definite vs. indefinite article usage, there are slight nuances, depending on the sentence, in which one might be preferred to the other. Let's look at some examples.

    - Caroline is typing her report on the computer.
    - David sits in front of a computer at work all day, so he likes to get outside in the evenings.

    In these two examples, it is implied that there is a specific computer (first example) and not (second example). However, both sentences could be grammatically correct with either article.

    In your example, I think it would simply work better to say "in front of a/the computer", and neither article sounds particularly better to me. If you do a Google news search for "at a computer" and "at the computer", you'll see that the verbs preceding the prepositional phrase are often "look" or "stare".
    I'm not sure I agree that "Caroline is typing her report on the computer." refers to a specific computer. Which computer would that be?

  4. #4
    Allen165 is offline Key Member
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    Re: definite article

    Do you think there's a difference in meaning between these two sentences?

    He was hurt and taken to a hospital.

    He was hurt and taken to the hospital.

    The second sentence does not, in my view, refer to a specific hospital, although it could if the person was hurt in a town where there is only one hospital.
    Last edited by Allen165; 20-Mar-2010 at 12:16.

  5. #5
    TheParser is offline VIP Member
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    Re: definite article

    Quote Originally Posted by Jasmin165 View Post
    Do you think there's a difference in meaning between these two sentences?

    He was hurt and taken to a hospital.

    He was hurt and taken to the hospital.

    The second sentence does not, in my view, refer to a specific hospital, although it could if the person was hurt in a town where there is only one hospital.

    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****

    Good morning.

    (1) Yes, I believe that you are correct as far as American English is concerned: ....taken to THE hospital simply refers to any such institution where the ill are treated.

    (i) One expert says that "the hospital" is a so-called WEAK definite noun phrase. That is, he says, the "hospital's particular location need not be uniquely identified."

    (2) Is there a difference between "the" and "a"?

    (i) I am not able to put my finger on it, but I sense a difference.

    (a) If you say, "He was hurt and taken to A hospital," it seems to me that you are setting up a contrast. That is, he was taken to A hospital, NOT to ANOTHER place, such as his home or even to the employees' lounge at his workplace.

    Thank you.

  6. #6
    bhaisahab's Avatar
    bhaisahab is offline Moderator
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    Re: definite article

    Quote Originally Posted by Jasmin165 View Post
    Do you think there's a difference in meaning between these two sentences?

    He was hurt and taken to a hospital.

    He was hurt and taken to the hospital.

    The second sentence does not, in my view, refer to a specific hospital, although it could if the person was hurt in a town where there is only one hospital.
    In BrE, "He was taken to hospital" is correct if talking about any hospital. When referring to a particular hospital, usually the nearest one, you might say: "He was taken to the hospital".

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